Road Race – Felt F2
In a word: WOW
Best For: Competition and Blowing your training partners away
Honestly, we are not sure who can tell the differnce between Felt’s dreamy F2 and its pro-team F1. The carbon fiber on this bike is a tad less hi-tech and there are some small downgrades in componentry. But the F2 is $5,000 less expensive and can still guide you to the top of most podiums. But what impresses most is just how comfortable of a ride it is for such a high-performance road machine—that carbon is nice and stiff too, giving it fantastic handling bombing down steep mountain roads. And componentry highlights including Shimano Dura Ace Di2 shifters and FSA K-Force cranks give it smooth, responsive class in the heat of battle. If the F2 is still beyond your budget, keep looking down the F line—each bike offers a slight step down from the one above while still providing similar performance.
Road Deal – Specialized Roubaix SL3
In a word: Value
Best for: Training, racing
Carbon, carbon, carbon. You can go over the top on what you spend on a carbon fiber road ride, but if you shop around, you won’t find more bang for your buck than the SL3. Built with Specialized’s FACT IS 10r carbon, the frame on this baby weighs in at a scant 1,000 grams. But it still has guts—the monocoque carbon fork will suck up road chatter, as does the carbon seat with a Zertz inset. That makes it an ideal bike for Colorado, where a combination of light weight for big climbs and stability for raucous descents is required. In fact, it’s the perfect ride for the typical road cyclist anywhere since it’s such an efficient multitasker. The geometry is comfortable enough for hours training in the saddle, yet it’s still aggressive enough for big results on race day. And if you could care less about any of that, it’s also a great bike to just take out and cruise the backroads.
Homegrown Mountain – Yeti 575
In a word: Intuitive
Best for: Everything from backdoor rides to races
A brand new take on a classic ride, the 2011 575 was designed by the folks down in Golden who ride nearby Apex, a rocky beast that requires the skills to bust up climbs and power over nasty descents. The big upgrade here is a tapered head tube, which makes the bike stiffer and more responsive when things get gnarly, and stronger rear chain stays with internal cable routing, which can take a beating on rocky Front Range or Fruita trails. The end result is a 5-inch travel bike that truly climbs like a 4-inch ride, making it a nice race horse under the right circumstances too. It truly shines on downhills—let it run and it finds the line.
Mountain Monster – Giant Trance X1
In a word: Plush
Best For: Technical trails
We were pretty damn impressed by previous iterations of the do-it-all Trance X—the reasonably-priced ride absolutely sucked up descents and climbed respectably well for a 5-inch travel bike. But it was a tad heavy and had trouble keeping up on big grunts. The newest version of the Trance X took all the good in the old bike and made it even better, tweaking it slightly to make it lighter, yet pumping it up with a tapered Fox 32 FIT F125RL fork with 15QR thru axle. Tasty.
Mountain 29er – Breezer Cloud 9 LTD
In a word: Carbon
Best for: Big wheelers looking to drop buddies on long rides
29ers have become so damn popular it’s hard for us to recommend just one as our choice for the best geared XC machine. But the carbon-fiber Cloud 9 is quite simply one of the best rides we have been on, period. The frame, designed by mountain biking pioneer Joe Breeze himself, avoids many of the classic 29er pitfalls—incorporating shorter chain stays to get those big wheels around corners faster and keep weight on the back end when it climbs. Breeze is also a fan of mounting disc brakes directly on those chainstays, which he claims cuts down on brake howl on long descents. In short, this is a big bike for even bigger epic rides.
Mountain Hipster – Raleigh XXIX
In a word: Belt-Drive
Best for: Getting stupid singlespeeding on the local trails
Looking for a bike for good, hard-charging fun on the backyard trails? How about a fully rigid, steel-frame, 29er singlespeed with a belt drive at a reasonable price. Far more than a smorgasbord of every hip trend over the last decade, this thing is responsive on technical singletrack. The 28T Gates Belt Drive and Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes can take a beating as well as make this a machine that will keep up with geared riders. That rigid frame may bring you back to the jarring (good?) old days on rocky sections but it’s a godsend when headed out on paved or dirt roads to get to the singletrack.
Big Hits – Knolly Chilcotin
In a word: BC
Best for: Bombing
The folks at Salvagetti Cycle Workshop (salvagetti.com) in Denver first introduced us to Canadian brand Knolly—and we were more than happy to try out a bike that’s built for BC-style riding. The Chilcotin simply tears down the hill, sucking up big hits thanks to 6 inches of plush rear suspension. But this is no downhill dog—the brand’s FourBy4 linkage system gives the thing the stiff heart and pedaling responsiveness of an XC racer. The bike also can be put together with two head angle and bottom bracket options: one for climbing and the typical Front Range XC rides, the other for a trip to the downhill course at Winter Park. It even comes with cable routing that will accommodate a seat dropper. Demo it at Salvagetti.
$2325–$2950 frame, builds start at $4700; knolly.com